Due to the increase in the spread of the Corona virus in October/November, the Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service has introduced new measures for both inmates and convicted persons from November 6.
The aim is to prevent/reduce the risk for an outbreak within the correctional service, and to protect peoples` lives and health.
Each prison or probation office is entitled to make their own assessments, based on guidelines from the Directorate.
These measures will be in force until November 27, upon which a new assessment will be made based on the general infection situation.
The Norwegian correctional service has established a hotline where relatives and family members of inmates and persons in custody can obtain general informattion about the Norwegian Correctional Service and also about the handling of the Corona crisis.
You may be anonymous when you phone the hotline. The hotline is not meant for general questions about Covid-19. Such questions should be referred to official national channels established by the national health authorities. The hotline is not meant for questions concerning individuals or specific prisons. If needed, family members and relatives will be referred to the facility in question.
The hotline is open weekdays from 0900-1500 and will be in operation until 31.12.2020.
When determining whether visits to inmates can take place, the prison shall take into consideration certain factors, such as the infection rate in the geographical area where the prison is located, which geographical area the visitor is coming from, as well as the potential need to use public transport in order to reach the prison.
The practice of restricting access to visits will therefore vary and depend on the infection rate in different geographical areas.
Prison premises, as well as the situation regarding prison staffing, will also be of crucial importance.
Visits to inmates shall be cancelled/postponed or not granted if the visit cannot be carried out in line with current infection control measures.
If the visit is regarded as safe and can be allowed, visitors’ premises shall be adapted to prevent infection, for instance by using plexi glass, distancing etc.
Regretfully, it cannot be avoided that the measures restrict inmates’ possibilities to have contact with their close friends and families.
To the extent that it is possible to allow for visits, leaves and escorted leaves, facilities (prisons) are asked to bear in mind childrens’ need to maintain contact with their parents, as well as the needs of minor inmates.
It should, however, also be assessed – in cooperation with the inmate and the person having parental responsibility for the child – whether certain infection control measures might impact negatively on such contact.
The prisons shall continue to use video link conversations as a substitute for, or an addition to ordinary visits.
Visits from media, politicians etc.
In order to reduce the risk of infection, it is necessary to restrict access to prison for external persons, such as mass media representatives, politicians and different interest groups. The necessity of visits must be assessed, and as a main rule, visits must be postponed until the risk of infection is reduced.
This shall, however, not inflict on inmates and convicted persons’ right to speak freely and to be in contact with mass media.
When considering escorted leaves, the risk of spreading the virus must be assessed. The needs of the convicted person, and the necessity of escorted leaves, must be weighed up against the risk of infection.
Escorted leaves purely of a social character, shall to the extent possible be declined if the escorted leave involves a risk of spreading the virus.
In addition, the staffing situation in prisons may restrict the practical possibility to permit escorted leave, in case many staff members are in quarantine.
Leaves shall be amended/cancelled if they result in an increased risk of infection being brought into prisons. When processing leave applications, each application must be individually assessed, taking into consideration the risk of infection. Known risk factors and local conditions must be taken into account in the assessment.
Leave to/from areas with a rising infection rate should not be granted.The practice of restricting leaves might therefore vary, based on the infection rate in different geographical areas. In cases where leaves are granted, it is assumed that prison authorities have assessed the risk of infection as minimal.
Permitting temporary release/day release will be restricted to cases where this is regarded as safe in view of infection control. Commonly known risk factors and local conditions shall be taken into consideration, as well as inmates’ need to receive temporary release. Allowing temporary release will therefore vary, based on infection rates in different geographical areas, as well as on inmates’ needs to use public transport.
In cases when temporary release is permitted or continued, it is assumed that prison authorities have assessed the risk of infection as minimal.
- If there is a Covid-19 outbreak in prison, the following measures can be carried out:
- Introduce single- bed cells for all inmates
- Placement of a number of inmates in solitary confinement
- Placement of all inmates in solitary confinement
- Extended visit restrictions
- Increased use of restrictions in leaves, escorted leaves and temporary leaves
- Interruption of sentence
- Early release
- Postponement of execution of sentence
- Change date of appearance in prison for inmates who shall meet to execute their sentence